You’re The Puppet – Updated at 8:15 PM EDT

Franklin Foer is up with an almost-incendiary new piece at Slate on Trump’s secret email link to a Russian bank. And here’s what Foer has found:

The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.

russian-puppet

Alfa Bank deep and old ties to Vladimir Putin in an admittedly complicated history described in part (as Foer cites)in this work.

Yesterday, when Senator Harry Reid posted his letter suggesting that FBI Director Comey was sitting on “explosive” information about Trump’s ties to Russia, some serious people suggested that was just Reid blowing smoke — the way he provoked Romney with his claim that the 2012 GOP nominee hadn’t paid taxes in a decade (which wasn’t true, at least for the two years the RomBot deigned to release his partial returns.)  I got into a twitter fight about that with Tom Nichols, who many (including me) see as a smart and honest-broker conservative.  Reid’s tactics pissed him (and many others) waaaaay off, and the default was to assume that this latest was more of the same.

Well, perhaps, not so much.

One of the interesting aspects of Foer’s stories is that the New York Times is on it too.  Foer writes:

Around the same time [September], the New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers began chasing the story. (They are still pursuing it.)

I have been (today! on Twitter) extremely critical of the Times‘ coverage of this election, particularly its disastrous refusal to accept the sunk cost of their dry-hole Clinton email investigation. This would be a good moment to redeem, in part, the institutional failure there to follow up on Trump stories with the kind of in-depth reporting that the Post’s David Fahrenthold and Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald, among some others, have produced.

But leave aside the press wars for a moment, and contemplate what Foer has uncovered, partial and circumstantial as it is.  For months, with communication peaking at politically significant moments, Donald Trump maintained a secret communication link with the highest levels of the Russian kleptocracy.

Throughout this election one of the core unanswered questions has been “Who owns Donald Trump.” The single real failure of journalism in this campaign has been the lack of a sustained effort to crack that query.  Now we have a partial answer, circumstantial, inferential, but more solid than all the months-long Trump denials of connections between his organization and Russian institutions.

Absent any better information, the prudent response is that the possibility that Putin owns Trump is non-trivially real — and hence makes it waaaaaay too risky to allow him and his associates anywhere near power.

And, of course, we are within days of the choice that could make him President of the United States.

Mind boggling.

PS:  Bat signal for Adam. I’d love some actual knowledgeable commentary on this. (Feel free to attach to this or a new front page item, if you’re so moved, btw.)

Image: Big Philanthropic Puppet Bazaar Saint Petersburg, 1899

Update at 8:15 PM EDT by Adam L. Silverman

Tom asked me to weigh in here, so here goes. I am not a computer scientist and while I’ve taught one criminology course on cyber based crime and terrorism way back in 2006, wrote a paper with a computer science specialist on how the Internet can be used to transmit extremist ideology and promote terrorism back in 2003, other than reading up, as necessary for work, on what the US is doing within the cyber domain, I can’t comment on the technical aspects of Foer’s reporting. I do, however, have expertise with both link and social network analysis; especially to determine who is connected to who to understand an operating environment. In this case, based on Foer’s reporting and the work of the subject matter experts he’s citing, there appears to be a confirmed connection (link) between two nodes (with a weaker link between one node and a third node). And that connection runs two ways and based on what the technical subject matter experts indicate that two way connection is for the purpose of electronic communication. The two nodes are a Trump Organization server and a Russian oligarch owned bank who’s owners have ties to Vladimir Putin.

At this point there are only two real questions: 1) Is the appearance of a two way communicative connection between the Trump Organization (node 1) and Alfa Bank (node two) actual or an digital artifact? Foer’s reporting seems to settle this that it is actual/real. And 2) What was the purpose of the communication? Was it simply for mundane business purposes – that the Trump Organization has accepted investment from Alfa Bank or those that keep their money there or that the Trump Organization has accepted loans to keep its operations going from Alfa Bank in order to maintain liquidity? Or was the purpose of the communications for something else? There is insufficient information to answer those questions based on Foer’s reporting. Hopefully the NY Times or some other enterprising journalists such as David Farenthold or Kurt Eichenwald might be able to shed some light on that before election day.



Early Morning Open Thread: Trump’s Team Styles Themselves ‘Project Alamo’…

… The better to enjoy the frisson of terror when they imagine the dusky hordes pouring across our borders…

This isn’t a campaign, it’s a bunch of racist revanchists LARPing their ill-conceived fantasies.

(Apologies in advance to genuine LARPers, who have a much better grasp of the difference between reality and wouldn’t-it-be-kewl role-playing.)
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Open Thread: More of the ‘Philanthropic’ Stylings of the GOP’s Presidential Nominee

If this guy’s pretending to be a billionaire wasn’t such a profitable grift, his adult children would have him under supervised guardianship, because some of these stunts seem distinctly pathological. Kudos to the Washington Post‘s David Fahrenthold for staying focused:

For as long as he has been rich and famous, Donald Trump has also wanted people to believe he is generous. He spent years constructing an image as a philanthropist by appearing at charity events and by making very public — even nationally televised — promises to give his own money away.

It was, in large part, a facade. A months-long investigation by The Washington Post has not been able to verify many of Trump’s boasts about his philanthropy.

Instead, throughout his life in the spotlight, whether as a businessman, television star or presidential candidate, The Post found that Trump had sought credit for charity he had not given — or had claimed other people’s giving as his own…

In the books he wrote or co-wrote about himself, Trump frequently praised charitable giving in the abstract — casting it as a moral response to his vast wealth… In the same books, Trump seemed to regard charity differently when he encountered it in his day-to-day life. In those cases, it sounds like a hassle. A game he can’t win, and hates playing.

“The people who run charities know that I’ve got wealthy friends and can get them to buy tables,” Trump said in “The Art of the Deal,” explaining why he’d turned down a charity request from New York Yankee Dave Winfield. “I understand the game, and while I don’t like to play it, there is no graceful way out.”

“I can remember a friend who asked me why I had so many charity events at my properties,” Trump wrote. “I said to him, ‘Because I can!’. . . It’s a great feeling, and it makes all the work that goes into acquiring all those beautiful properties and buildings worth it.”

But that’s not entirely a story about how Trump gives money away. It’s also a story about how Trump makes money.

Charities pay him to rent out his clubs and banquet rooms for fundraiser galas. At the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, they can pay $275,000 or more for a single night. Sometimes, Trump has given donations from the Trump Foundation to the charities that are his customers. But in some of those cases, he still comes out ahead…



Thursday Night Open Thread: Marching (One Hopes) Into Oblivion

gop-loyalty-program-non-seq

(Non Sequitur via GoComics.com)
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I voted for Hillary Clinton to be the first woman President this afternoon, and therefore refuse to let the antics of the dying Repub party and its worst adherents harsh my considerable mellow.

First blowback from the big Bloomberg article. Rick Hasen, at his highly respected LawBlog:

Breaking: DNC Asks for RNC to Be Held in Contempt, Voter Intimidation Consent Decree Extended 8 More Years
Back in August, I blogged about how Donald Trump could be violating a longstanding consent decree against the RNC engaging in “ballot security” measures which have been found to intimidate minority voters. I explained how the consent decree began in the 1980s, was extended by the courts over RNC’s objection (which went all the way to the Supreme Court in an unsuccessful effort to get them involved), and now expires in 2017 unless extended for up to another 8 years by order of the Court. I explained that there were two issues: first, was Trump engaging in voter intimidation activities (it looked like he had) and second, whether Trump could be seen as an “agent” of the RNC (because the decree applies only to the RNC, its employees, and agents)…

Well now it’s happened. The DNC filed papers saying that the RNC, through Trump’s actions has already violated the consent decree, and asks for another 8-year extension…

For full details and useful links — read the whole thing.
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Apart from that, what’s on the agenda tonight?



Donald Trump: Fascist

I can’t think of another way to describe him after this* [Politico link]:

Donald Trump suggested canceling the election Thursday and granting himself the presidency.

“What a difference. You know, what a difference this is,” Trump said during a rally in Toledo, Ohio, after comparing his tax plan with Hillary Clinton’s.

“And just thinking to myself right now, we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for? What are we having it for?” he asked. “Her policies are so bad. Boy, do we have a big difference.”

Because that’s how he rolls, and how the party that nominated him would, if they could.

I got nuthin’ beyond that.

640px-joseph_mallord_william_turner_-_the_decline_of_the_carthaginian_empire_-_wga23169

Except perhaps this:  the Republican party is a wholly owned Trump subsidiary now. It must be destroyed, its walls pulled down, its proud towers cast down, its fields sown with salt.

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est

*Actually, I’ve been using that label for the Cheeto-faced Ferret-heedit Shitgibbon for some time.  But that’s neither here nor there.

Image: J. W. M. Turner, The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire1817.